Taj Mahal (2005) 

 

 

 

Director:     Akbar Khan. 

Starring:    Zulfi Sayed (Shah Jahan - young), Sonia (Mumtaaj mahal), Kabir Bedi (Shah Jahan - old), Arbaaz Khan (Aurangzeb), Pooja Batra (Noor Jahan), Milind Gunaji, Vaquar Sheikh (Darashiko).

a Mughal ruler builds a monument to eternal love in honor of his deceased wife

 

Spoiler Warning:   below is a summary of the entire movie. 

A woman reporter named Sophia is doing a story on the Taj Mahal.  She thinks it a bit ironic because while the Taj Mahal is devoted to eternal love, she has recently lost her faith in eternal love.  A very good guide is assigned to her.  He is very interested in history and gives Sophia a book to read on the story behind the Taj Mahal.  The architectural masterpiece was built in memory of his dead queen. 

Back to the Past.  1607.  Hindustan was prospering under the Mughal Empire. 

A common soldier named Khurram goes to the Royal Bazaar which is more of a social event.  The noble women pretend to be shop owners and serve the customers, many of which are male.  Khurram tells his friend that he is in the bazaar looking for an angel.  A woman sees Khurram and likes what she sees.  She gets involved in a little tussle with some of the other women and throws a cup at one of them.  The cup hits Khurram in the forehead and gives him a bad cut.  The woman apologizes profusely to him.  She then gives him a scarf as a gift to make up for the cut.  Khurram believes that she is the angel he has been looking for. 

Khurram's friend tells him that the woman is beyond his reach.  Her name is Arjumand Banu Begum and she is the daughter of the Emperor's Prime Minister.  But if he still persists, he can meet her where she listens to music at the house of music.  Khurram waits outside the building to meet her.  They bump into each other and both are pleased to see the other.  He tells her that he can play the sitar.  She cannot.  He offers to teach her in return for her helping heal his forehead wound.  They then go to hear the musician play at the house of music.  The two young people agree to meet the next morning.  

They meet and he begins to teach her how to play.  But after a few lessons she finds it very hard to concentrate on the music.  She misses him so much that she can't focus enough to practice.  Khurram approaches her and kisses her hand.  She tells him: "Always be by my side, soldier."    Arjumand tells him she will have to go away from him to be with her father in the mountains on a vacation.  Khurram agrees to let her go, but adds:  "This is the last time I"ll let you go away from me."

In the mountains, Arjumand finds that she cannot enjoy herself.  She is afraid that her father might kill her commoner love.  By a river she sees large maple leaves with different phrases written on them.  She starts to pick up the leaves.  She decides to travel upstream to see if it is her beloved Khurram writing on the leaves.  She spots him writing the phrases on the leaves and setting them in the water.  She tells him:  "I could not bear the separation."  But she is still very worried.  She tells Khurram the truth for the first time.  Her father is the Prime Minister.  Khurram says power and position don't matter to him.  He asks her if she would marry a soldier (namely him).  She says "yes". 

Later he comes to her encampment.  She begs him to leave so that he will not be killed, but he refuses to go.  He asks her to go for a walk with him.  She finally says:  "I shall go with you, if that's what makes you happy." 

The next morning Arjumand runs to him.  She finds him painting the base of a huge tree with her name appearing over and over again.  Khurram wants to talk with her father.  She pleads with him that this is not the time.  She wants to speak with her father first.  When she sees her father he is ordering the whipping of a commoner and the confiscation of his land and property because he dared to fall in love with a noble woman.  This scares Arjumand very much.  Her father tells her:  "They should know their true place."  Arjumand returns to Khurram and tells him:  "My father will never understand.  . . . He doesn't even know the meaning of love."  She add that she will have to leaver her father's house because this is the only way out.  Khurram agrees but first wants to introduce her to his father.  Arjumand, however, is still afraid.  She says:  "This is suicide."  He responds with "If you trust me, let me do it my way."  She consents to this.  Khurram takes her into the court where the Emperor and the Prime Minister are conducting the government.  The Emperor comes down to greet Khurram, his son.  Arjumand is astounded at this turn of events.  Khurram tells her that he told her it would be all right.  He is the Crown Prince of Hindustan and he wants Arjumand to be his wife and the Queen of Hindustan.  Her father comes down and tells the emperor that he is very happy at this turn of events.  He says:  "I am the luckiest man on earth to have this great honor." 

But the current Queen, the step mother of Khurram, wants the Crown Prince to marry her daughter.  At first the Emperor says that it is too late.  But she won't take no for an answer.  She criticizes the Crown Prince for giving the Emperor no choice about his bride.  And she reminds her husband that he had made a promise at one time to her about her daughter being the future Empress.  She browbeats him until he says:  "I think you are right.  I'll speak to Khurram. . . . My Queen, whatever you desire will be done."

Then the Empress starts to work on Arjumand.  She asks her if she loves Khurram.  She does.  So you wouldn't let anything hurt him?  No.  The Empress adds that the road they have chosen will only bring the Crown Prince misfortune.  Moreover, "It is you who do the wrong to him."  The Crown Prince cannot think clearly because he is so in love.  Next the Empress speaks with her daughter.  She tells her that she will marry Khurram.  She protests that Khurram loves Arjumand, not her.  Mom advises hee daughter to use her charms to ensnare the Crown Prince.  And the daughter does try, but is rejected with the words:  "I'm in love with somebody else."

Now the Emperor talks with his son.  He tells the Crown Prince that royal marriages are not primarily for love, but to increase power and position for the families involved.  He adds that Arjumand is not fit to be the Empress.  The Emperor explains that he had made a promise to his wife and now he must order Khurram to marry his step sister.  Khurram tells his father that he does not want to be emperor, if the emperor is as weak as his father is in the position.  Khurram leaves to speak with Arjumand.  He tells her that he removed his crown and gave it to his father.  He feels his father has betrayed him.  But even after having renounced his position, the loving couple are still faced with many threats.  The Crown Prince himself could be seen as a future opponent.  And/or his sons could be seen as future threats to the Emperor and Empress. 

Khurram is told that there is a conspiracy to have him killed.  His future father-in-law tells the couple to go to the mountains, get married and don't come back until he tells them it is safe to return.  To make matters worse, the Empress starts to spread the rumor that Khurram is planning a coup against his father to teach him a lesson.  The Emperor believes the false stories and has his son designated a proclaimed offender.  He tells his military men to bring his son back to him as a prisoner.  

Khurram selects a spot for a home that can be defended.  Arjumand's father is now relieved of his position of Prime Minister"  "Your plan has been foiled."  Dad fights back by saying that they are playing with fire.  If they so much as touch Khurram they will face the battle of their life.  The former Prime Minister is put under house arrest.  The official position is that the man is sick and can't be seen. 

With real trouble brewing, Khurram gives Arjumand the chance to leave for "this doesn't have to be your life."  But she insists that she loves him and is going nowhere.  Now both feel they should get married as soon as possible.  (And they do soon marry.)  News arrives of the house arrest of Arjumand's father.  Arjumand prays:  "God, please save my father."

Khurram looks for Arjumand with little luck.  He becomes very worried that some harm might have come to her.  He finally goes down by the local stream and finds her there fetching fresh water.  He tells her that it is not safe for her to be out alone.

Back to the Present.  The guide calls Sophia and asks her how her reading is coming.  She tells him that she is up to the part where they marry.  So he gets off the phone so she can continue reading. 

Back to the Past.    Now Arjumand has two boys, one 4 and one 6 years of age.  But things were too good to be true.  The Queen's men arrive in the area and kidnap the couple's two children.  They will use them to get to Khurram. 

Khurram approaches his wife and she asks him:  "Where are my sons?"  She then begs her husband "please save my children."  Khurram rides out by himself and cuts down many of the men who were involved in the kidnapping.  Then Khurram learns that his father is on his death bed.  He goes to see his father.  The Emperor tells his son that he has done a great injustice to him, his most loved son.  He asks his son for forgiveness.  "I am dying and nobody cares but you."  Khurram informs his father of the kidnapping.  The Emperor is outraged:  "I'm still the the Emperor." 

Khurram returns to speak with his wife.  He tells her:  "The culprits have been brought to justice."  He then takes his wife and sons to see the Emperor.  The Emperor asks Arjumand for her forgiveness. 

Khurram is to be the next Emperor, but Arjumand is very worried.  They have had a wonderful life in isolation  "Why go back to the world of intrigue?"  But Khurram says he has to do his duty.  Arjumand agrees to go with him. 

The Emperor dies. 

Now it is time for justice to be meted out to Khurram's wicked step mother.  The woman asks for execution, but Arjumand, given the right to make the decision by her husband, sentences her to house arrest for the rest of her life. 

Back to the Present.  Sophia is still reading intently the story of Khurram and Arjumand. 

Back to the Past.  Khurram is going to war.  Arjumand is pregnant.  She is in a weakened condition, but she is so worried about her husband that she decides to follow him.  The new Emperor is informed of his wife's actions and he tells his men that he will go see her.  Along the way, however, they get lost.  Now Arjumand becomes even more worried.  She actually wants to get up and go find him herself because she believes that something bad must have happened to him.  After many hours, Arjumand finds out that there still is no news about her husband.  She screams:  "This can't happen."  But soon after this, the Emperor reaches her camp.  His new baby girl is brought to him and he is told that Arjumand has lost a lot of blood.  There is not much time left to her.  He goes into the tent to see her.  She says:  "Thank God, my soldier's safe."  She asks him to build her a monument after she is gone.  She adds:  "Even after I am gone, my love will be there with you."  She dies. 

The Prime Minister comes in to see his son-in-law.  He tells the Emperor that his subjects are worried about him.  For the sake of his wife, he should come out of hiding.  She would not have liked the way he is reacting to her death.  The Prime Minister has to inform the government's leaders that the Emperor will see no one from the government.  But he will meet with the country's finest artisans and architects to build a final resting place for Arjumand. 

Back to the Present.  It has been over 300 years since the Taj Mahal was built.  It took 22 years to build it. 

There began a War of Succession between Khurram's two sons.  Khurram was arrested for supporting the losing son.  His son imprisons his father for life, but he grants him his wish to have a cell from which he can see the Taj Mahal.  His daughter visits him in prison.  He asks her to make sure they bury him next to Arjumand.  As he tells his daughter the tale of his love for her mother, he dies.  In his hands he holds the scarf that Arjumand gave him when they first met. 

Back to the present.  Sophia finishes reading the book.  She goes to the Taj Mahal to think about the two lovers who created a monument to eternal love. 

 

Good movie.  I never knew the story was so involved.  It's a great love story.  They are so into each other that one wonders if they both had problems with obsession.  But let's not besmirch a great love story.  The two lovers said a lot of loving, flowering things to each other, that were a bit much at times.  "O.k. I got it.  You really do love each other very much!"  The dialogue was a little too flowery at times. But again, you have to admire the depth of their love. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

The Mughal Period

The transfer of power within the Mughal empire was determined by the princes competing with each other in terms of military achievements and the consolidation of  power. The natural result of this was many rebellions and wars of succession.

1526 --  First Battle of Panipat, defeat of Ibrahim Lodi by Babur

1526-1530 --  reign of Babur, founder of Mughal Dynasty

1530-1539 --  reign of Humayun, struggle for power

1539-55   --  Sur Dynasty in Delhi

1556-1605   --  reign of Akbar, consolidation and expansion of Mughal power

1571  --  foundation of Fatehpur Sikri

1579  --  abolition of special tax on Hindus

1580  --  first Jesuit mission at Mughal court

1605-27 --  Reign of Jahangir

1606 --  martyrdom of Guru Arjan Das

1616-1618   --  Sir Thomas Roe obtains permission for English East India Company to trade in the empire

1628-1658   --  reign of Shah Jahan; Taj Mahal and other great buildings constructed; Mughal expansion in Deccan

1630-1680   --  life of Sivaji, Maratha leader

1657-1658   --  War of Succession between rival sons of Shah Jahan

1658-1707 --  reign of Aurangzeb

1666-1708    --  life of Guru Gobind Singh, tenth and last Sikh guru

1675   --   execution of Gur Tegh Bahadur

1679    --   reimposition of the special tax on Hindus

1681   --    Aurangzeb moves to Deccan, war with Marathas

1699    --   East India Company constructs Fort William at Calcutta

1707-1712    --   reign of Bahadur Shah followed by gradual disintegration of Mughal Empire into virtually independent provinces

1712-1713   ---  reign of Jahandar Shah (1661-1713)

1713-1719  --   reign of Furrukhsiyar (or Farrukhsiyar, 16831719)

1719   --   three month reign of Rafi-ul Darajat (1699-1719), the 10th Mughal Emperor. 

1719  --   brief reign of Rafi ud Daulat (a.k.a. Shah Jahan II) as the 11th Mughal Emperor.  He was deposed and killed at the behest of the Saiyid Brothers.

1719  --   brief reign of puppet Nikusiyar Mohammed, the 12th Mughal Emperor.

1719-1748   --  reign of Muhammad Shah (1719-1748), 13th Mughal Emperor. 

1739   --   Nadir Shah sacks Delhi

1740   --   Struggles for power in Carnatic and Bengal involving forces of European trading company as well as indigenous forces (-1760)

1748-1754  --  reign of Ahmed Shah Bahadur (1725-1775) the 14th Mughal Emperor.  When he came to power the Mughal Empire was collapsing. He retired in 1754.  Killed in his sleep by an assassin. 

1754-1759  --  reign of Alamgir II (1699-1759)  the 15th Mughal Emperor.  He was the son of Jahandar Shah. 

1756  --   Siraj-ud-Dawlah, the nawab, or viceroy of Bengal, seizes British Fort William at Calcutta (now Kolkata).   Some British prisoners died in a dungeon known as the Black Hole of Calcutta.

1757 (January)  --   Robert Clive, British governor of Fort Saint David (now Cuddalore), recaptured the fort.  He makes an alliance with Hindu leaders in Bengal who are dissatisfied with the Muslim Siraj-ud-Dawlah.

1757  (June)  --   Battle of Plassey, the victory that led to British control of Bengal and marked the first stage in the British conquest of India.

 

British Period

Company Rule

1757 (June)  --   Battle of Plassey; nawab of Bengal defeated by East India Company forces led by Robert Clive at Plassey, a village near Krishnanager (Krishnagar), Bangla.   This occurred after arranging for the defection of Mir Jafar, one of the nawab's generals.

1759-1760   --   reign of Shah Jahan III , the 16th Mughal Emperor briefly. He was deposed by Wazir Ghazi-ud Din. 

1761   --  At third Battle of Panipat, Marathas defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali

1764  --  victory at  Buxar secured British rule over the region.. 

 


Shah Jahan (1592-1666)

 

1592  --  Shah Jahan born as Prince Khurram Shihab-ud-din Muhammad in Lahore.  He was the third and favorite son of his father, the emperor Jahangir.  His mother was Princess Mammati (Jahangir's third wife).  His popular name of Khurram was given by his grandfather Akbar.  (It is Persian for 'joyful'.)

He was very educated, good in the martial arts and a very good military commander (being responsible for most of the territorial gains during his father's reign in campagins in Mewar, the Deccan and Kangra). 

1607  --   Khurrum betrothed to Arjumand Banu Begum.  She was the 14-year old granddaughter of a Persian noble, Asif Khan. She is the one for whom Khurrum would build the Taj Majal. (And she was so attached to Khurrum that despite her pregnancies, she travelled with her husband's entourage throughout his early military campaigns and later in the  rebellion against his father.  Their relationship was described as "intense" and she "the perfect wife".  She had no political ambitions and was totally devoted to her husband. 

1611  --   Khurrum's father married Nur Jehan.  She was the widowed daughter of a Persian immigrant.   She and her brother Asaf Khan gained a great deal of power in Jahangir's court.

1612  --   after a wait of five years, they marry.  Khurrum gave her the title Mumtaz Mahal Begum (Chosen one of the Palace).  She was his third wife.  But he showed little interest in sex with the other wives (except for the purposes of procreation).    Since Arjumand  was Asif Khan's daughter, the marriage consolidated Nur Jahan and Asif Khan's court positions.

1617  --  Khurram scored military successes against the Lodi in the Deccan.  This made his father very happy because it secured the southern border.  Dad gave him the title of  'Shah Jahan Bahadur' (Lord of the World) which implicitly meant he would become the next emperor. 

There was a big problem for Khurram.  His step-mother Nur Jahan decided to have her daughter from her first marriage wed Shah Jahan's youngest brother.  She then supported his claim to the throne.

1622  --  supported by Asaf Khan, Khurram openly revolted against his father.

1626  --    Jahangir's forces quell the rebellion and Khurram had to submit to his father. 

1627  --  death of Jahangirl  Khurram becomes the next Mughal Emperor as Shah Jahan.

His accomplishments:

put down a Muslim rebellion in Ahmednagasr;

beat back the Portuguese in Bengal;

captured the Rajput kingdoms of Baglana and Bundelkhand beyond the Khyber Pass. 

To accomplish all the above, Shah Jahan built a big military machine, which in turn put a strain on the imperial budget.  Nevertheless is was a period characterized by general stability.  In addition, he moved the capital from Agra to Delhi.  The period was the zenith of  Mughal arts and architecture. 

1631  --  the Emperor builds the Taj Mahal in Agra.  It was a tomb for his beloved third wife and also a monument to eternal love.

1657  --  his son Aurangzeb leads a rebellion when his father became ill.  He even publicly executes his brother and heir apparent Dara Shikoh.  Later Aurangzeb put the former emperor under house arrest in Agra Fort.

1666  --  death of Shah Jahan. 

 

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